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By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's gymnastics team is looking to be the 2017 national champion.
Before that goal can be realized, the Nittany Lions need to secure a top-two finish at the NCAA Regionals on Saturday to earn a spot to compete for a national championship.
The team will compete in the Gainesville Regional against No. 3 Florida, No. 10 Georgia, No. 15 Missouri, No. 30 New Hampshire and No. 35 North Carolina.
"We were ecstatic [when we found our regional," sophomore Sabrina Garcia said. "Not only is it somewhere warm, but it's going to be a very good match-up."
Penn State is ranked No. 33 out of 35 teams in the NCAA Regionals, but they're not letting the rankings affect the performances.
"The girls are very excited to be going to Florida, so that was a great start, and overall, we just try to focus on our routines and what we can control, not who we're competing against," interim co-head coach Kera Molinaro said.
"They're just focusing on their performance and putting together 24 routines," agreed interim co-head coach Josh Nilson.
Two weeks ago, the Nittany Lions tied for sixth-place at the 2017 Big Ten Women's Gymnastics Championships with a score of 195.200. The team is only hoping to get better from then. As the team gets prepared for the weekend, they are working on the little things in order to place first or second at regionals.
"We have been doing the same things we have been doing all season," Garcia said. "We've just been working out details and getting the extra quarter-tenth on each event."
Garcia has competed in regionals before, so she will know the ins and outs of the event. For others, it will be an entirely different experience. Freshman Kristen Politz has been a standout this season competing in the all-around for Penn State. Even though this will be her first time at the NCAA Regional, the team and coaches know that she will succeed.
"We're actually really excited about one of our freshman this week, Kristen Politz," interim co-head coach Molinaro said. "She's going to be a adding a little bit of difficulty into her floor routine, which is very exciting. She's been working all year, and it's finally ready to go in. We're looking to her to have an awesome meet as well as all the returners. I think they're ready and know what to expect."
No one knows how Penn State will do this weekend, but the gymnasts are confident in their ability to rise to the top when it matters most.
"I think we have a good chance to do some really great things there," senior Emma Sibson said. "We haven't fully put everything together, like we haven't had our best performance yet. I'm just super confident. We're known for doing it when it counts, and it counts this weekend, so we're just riding on that - that we're going to make it to nationals."